Guest Blogger – Adriana Vivas
Adriana Vivas is a graduate student studying communications at the University of Central Missouri. For the past 4 years, she has traveled to Colombia to volunteer on medical missions as the social media coordinator and photographer.
The first time the topic of social justice really made a connection with me was on my first medical mission trip to Santander, Colombia. A good family friend of ours had started a foundation called LAUGHH that went on medical missions to very poor areas outside of a big city called Bucaramanga. When talking about public health care in Colombia, the mission briefed us on what types of circumstances we would see people in. Some had gone without health care for more than 10 years. Some maybe only two years. In Colombia, if you don’t have a registered address within the city, it is very hard to receive medical attention. People in rural areas most likely have to travel for two days if they even get the chance to see a doctor. All of this really opened my eyes to the types of social injustices there are in the world.
My job on the mission was to take pictures and video to update our social media every day of the mission and to curate content for the fundraiser we host every year. Basically, how people saw the mission was from my eyes and I wanted to make sure they could see the real good LAUGHH was doing for the people of Santander. On the mission, patients could see pediatricians, nurses, optometrists, physical therapists, general care doctors, wound specialists, surgeons and gynecologists. The most key element of the LAUGHH medical mission, however, was education. After seeing the doctor, each patient would go to education to learn about nutrition, breast education and sexual education. Some people truly did not know that what they were eating was killing them. One mother relayed that her son wouldn’t drink water unless there was sugar in it. Other patients with chronic disease such as diabetes admitted their diets consisted mostly of carbs and meats with little to no vegetables or fruit.
In some towns, drug abuse was consistently found in young adults. A boy I met named Carlos had Down Syndrome and while he was seeing the doctor, his mother told me a story about a time some boys in their town asked Carlos out to play and later that night, she found him in a ditch on the side of the road because the boys had drugged him. My eyes widened and instantly I started to cry. These were real life stories with people who have simply never had real access to healthcare or education. It was socially unjust in every way possible.
Luckily, there are other organizations in addition to LAUGHH that believe these people deserve better and are working to provide a better life for them. I am reminded of the starfish story every time there are cynics out there that question the real difference these nonprofits are making because well, the media rarely talks about the good that does happen in the world. It goes like this; one day a boy was walking on a beach that had thousands of stranded starfish. One by one, he picks up a starfish and throws it into the ocean. A man comes along and tells the boy “What are you doing, there is no way you can pick up all of these starfish. You won’t make a difference.” The boy picks up a starfish, tosses it in the ocean and says “Made a difference to that one.”
Simply raising awareness about social justice can have an impact on the lives of people in places you’ve never been. Each time you donate, volunteer your time or even share a social media post, you can help the fight to bring justice to those who don’t really have a voice themselves. What are some ways you have helped bring awareness to social justice? What unjust social situations have you seen or experienced? Leave a comment below and let us know!